NEW DELHI India's steel imports fell for the third straight month in January, provisional government data showed, as a tax on some steel products last year cut cheap overseas purchases that have been pressuring the sector.
The country imposed a 20 percent safeguard import duty on some steel products in September, and a government official said on Monday that it would soon take a decision on extending the tax, which industry believes will help improve margins that have shrunk due to cheap inbound shipments.
India also last week set a floor price on imports to deter countries such as China from undercutting local mills, the first such move in more than 15 years.
The third largest steel producer in the world shipped in 916,000 tonnes of the alloy last month, a drop of 8.7 percent over the corresponding month a year ago, data from the Joint Plant Committee of the steel ministry showed, but imports rose 24 percent in the 10 months to January compared with the same period last year. (bit.ly/1KAwviH)
Domestic steel makers including JSW Steel JSLT.NS, Tata Steel (TISC.NS) and Kalyani Steel (KLSL.NS) have lobbied the government for more protectionist measures as margins have taken a hit due to an onslaught of cheap imports from China, as well as Russia, Japan and South Korea.
"The best solution is anti-dumping duty and increase in import duty, 35 percent at least," said RK Goyal, managing director of Pune-based Kalyani Steel.
"Even MIP (minimum import price) should be on all the products, otherwise, to my understanding, it will not be as effective as it should be."
Companies have also sought a special package for the domestic steel sector, which has a total installed capacity of 110 million tonnes.
Consumption of steel, in the only major market where steel demand is growing, rose 4.2 percent between April 2015 and January 2016.
Steel exports in Asia's third largest economy fell to their lowest level in at least six months.
(Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath)
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